An epic name for an epic person.
“Nasti”, as she is nicknamed, is a competitive powerlifter, bodybuilder, scientist (with a PhD in biochemistry) and online coach.
Name: Anastasia Zinchenko
Age and DOB: 33 years old, 24/10/85
Current residence: None. I’m a digital nomad
Years as a vegan: 6 years
Your websites/social media pages: sciencestrength.com / instagram @sciencestrength
Current occupation: Online coach, freelancing scientist
You’ve recently been entering some bodybuilding competitions. Can you please tell us a bit about how many, which competitions and categories, and why you decided to compete.
I have entered three bodybuilding competitions competing in the figure class. Two competitions were in the UK competing in the British Natural Bodybuilding Federation (BNBF) and United Kingdom Drug Free Bodybuilding Association (UKDFBA) in August and the last competition in Germany with the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF).
I absolutely love competing and being on stage. I think that competitions are a great track of progress. Building muscle is a very long process. Competing once a year or every few years is great for seeing what progress I have achieved in the past year(s). Also, regular competitions are a great motivation to work harder and not to let oneself go when one doesn’t feel like it.
You’re also a competitive powerlifter for the UK. Which do you prefer and why – bodybuilding or powerlifting?
I absolutely love both sports. I find that bodybuilding and powerlifting go hand in hand and complement each other. Also, I love variety and I would probably get bored doing only one of them.
What are your top two greatest sporting achievements?
My top achievements are becoming the British Bench Press Vice-Champion in 2016 and representing GB at the World Championships in the same year.
I have released the Vegan Bodybuilding and Fat Loss Cookbook. It contains my favourite recipes I used during the bodybuilding contest prep this year, such as protein bread, protein pizza, protein doughnut, vegan burgers and sausages, protein cakes and cupcakes and many more. They are low in calories, packed with protein, highly satisfying and satiating. These recipes helped me to build muscle while losing more than 16 kg of weight.
What is your favourite recipe that you created and why?
My favourite recipe is Peanutella. It’s an incredibly delicious low-calorie peanut spread consisting mostly of fiber. It is a great healthy alternative to peanut butter and other treats that add lots of calories to the calorie budget and prevent many people from losing weight.
Why did you become vegan?
Initially, my interest in veganism was coming from the health perspective. I was curious of how I would feel eliminating all animal products (I was vegetarian at that time). However, the more information I gained about the negative impact of factory farming, the more my decision of living a vegan lifestyle became motivated by morality.
I don’t want to support something and contribute to something I consider as being wrong or unnecessary. For me, veganism is about doing the least harm possible, to respect all living beings, the environment and ourselves.
You’re also a scientist with a PhD in biochemistry – what’s the best part about being a scientist?
The best part of being a scientist is being able to acquire the knowledge I need. As I am used to working with research literature, I can find the things I need quickly, understand concepts and the available evidence, and get an overview over different topics in a short time. Being a scientist allows me to educate myself constantly without spending hours studying. Also, my lab work experience helps me with the creation of new recipes. Most of the time I can already predict what works and what doesn’t work without even trying it.
You like to cook with some foods that some people fear – such as soy, gluten and artificial sweeteners. Briefly, what advice would you give these people, assuming they don’t have diagnosed allergies or intolerance?
The evidence is very limited that these foods/ingredients are harmful. Of course, as Paracelsus said: “The dose makes the poison”.
For this reason, I usually recommend using different protein sources when planning the diet. When we over-consume one food, we can become sensitive even to very healthy foods, such as spinach. I used to eat a large spinach salad for lunch for a few years and then I became sensitive to spinach. My face turned red and I got rushes every time I ate spinach. After I cut it out for some time, I can eat it in moderation again.
1) Educate yourself. Learn what you should eat and what supplements you should take (e.g. Vitamin B12) to support your body, your health and your performance.
2) Don’t fall into the trap of trying an extreme diet that is not supported by science (e.g. raw diet, high carb low fat diet, etc.), just because someone who is on that diet looks good. Being vegan has many benefits and is a great thing to do for the animals and the environment. However, veganism is not a weight loss diet.
3) Don’t be afraid of what people will think about you if you become vegan. The most important thing is that you are happy with yourself, your actions and act based on your moral values. True happiness comes from inside, not from other peoples’ acceptance. Most people are occupied with their own worries and thoughts on what other people think about them, so that in many cases they don’t even care if you are vegan or not.
What are your top three tips for people wanting to grow muscle?
1) Support your muscle gains with the right diet (eat enough protein, enough fat and calories, enough nutrient-rich food like veggies and limit junk food consumption, as it has the potential to increase inflammation in your body).
2) Progress in training. Being able to increase the weight you lift and getting stronger is a good indicator that you are building muscle.
3) Give your body sufficient rest; sleep enough and listen to your body to realise when you need a rest day from training.
Is a vegan diet inferior to an omnivorous diet for muscle growth and health generally?
I wouldn’t say that a well-planned vegan diet is inferior to an omnivorous diet. On a vegan diet it may be more difficult to get what you need, and supplementation may be necessary. However, you have to remember that the easy path is not always the right path.
You also do coaching – what can clients expect from you and why should someone choose you as their coach?
I adjust my coaching programs based on my clients’ needs. Every person gets a program custom designed for him or her that helps him/her to develop in the most optimal way possible based on the lifestyle this person has. This applies to everything; weight loss, muscle gain, strength gain, mental growth, creation of a happier and more sustainable lifestyle and more.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
I see myself at a place I can’t imagine right now. Life is about constant growth and self-development. I hope that in 10 years I will grow so much and be at such a great place that is out of my current sight. We see and imagine only the things we already know.
When will you come to Australia!?
I would love to come to Australia as soon as my plans allow me to do it, ideally, in 2019.
Photo on Vee Fit homepage and at top of page by Matt Marsh